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Paraphrasing Vs. Summarizing: What's the Difference?

What distinguishes a paraphrase from a summary is the amount of information that is included. For example, in a summary you are just taking the main idea and main supports and then putting that info into your own words and own grammar (in other words, paraphrasing the info). So, essentially a summary is a paraphrase of just the most important info in a passage. It's like a summary is a type of task that needs the skill of paraphrasing to complete it.

With this concept in mind, we can see that a paraphrase of something can be of many different lengths and can include many different types of information because paraphrasing is just a skill that we use to complete different tasks like a summary or incorporating information into a research paper or an essay. This is a skill that is used to take another author's ideas/information and use it for our own purposes.

At ERLI, we teach the skill of paraphrasing to our students first (beginning in level three), and then later teach them how to use this skill to complete different tasks (like summarizing, or doing a research essay). So in a paraphrasing diagnostic, we're really just evaluating whether or not they have the skills of changing the vocabulary and grammar of an original text while retaining its meaning. Thus, having them paraphrase all the information in a short passage (like a paragraph) is useful because it gives us enough material to look at to get a sense of their skills.


page last modified: December 12, 2014

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